Read an Excerpt
Did You Get What You Prayed For?
By Nancy Jo Sullivan and Jane A. G. Kise
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2003 Nancy Jo Sullivan and Jane A. G. Kise
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWho Has Time to Pray?
"The king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den."
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Daniel 6:7, 10
How did you find the courage? If I knew my enemies were waiting to catch me on my knees so they could throw me into a den of hungry lions, I don't know if I could have done what you did. I'd like to believe I'd keep praying, but either I'd make sure I was out of sight, or I'd combine my prayer time with my daily commute so no one could know what I was doing.
At least tell me that you were afraid as you climbed the steps to your upper room, your sanctuary for prayer. Why was it so important? You could have prayed while strolling toward the palace, rolling up your bed mat, or peeling figs. Instead, you went to pray in the one place where they knew they could find you.
And you prayed three times a day. Sometimes Iforget to pray at all. I mean to-I even set my alarm clock early to make time for God before the race of the day traps me in its chaos, but somehow my time for Him often gets cut short. Isn't it okay if I pray while tending to chores, driving in the car pool, providing for my family's needs? Isn't God always ready to listen?
Or, Daniel, are you trying to tell me that I don't know what I'm missing? That snatching bits of prayer here and there isn't the same as consciously making room for God? When you climbed those stairs, did you feel as if you were climbing toward God? Maybe you knew that God was waiting to enfold you with love as you expressed your praises and concerns, hopes and sorrows.
I'd like to find an "upper room" in my life, a quiet sanctuary where I could kneel and close my eyes and feel the warm breezes of God. I want to be like you, Daniel. How do I make prayer a priority?
What would our lives be like if we considered prayer as essential as Daniel did? The following stories offer some ideas on how to integrate prayer into our daily lives. The writers discovered that God honors our willingness to set aside time for Him and that "upper rooms" can be found almost anywhere in our lives.
* * *
As every day demands its bread, so every day demands its prayer. No amount of praying, done today, will suffice for tomorrow's praying.
E. M. Bounds
A Cheerios Revelation
Being a mother of one does not necessarily prepare you to be a mother of two.
As a mother of one, I'd had plenty of time to pray. Little Danny slept late almost every morning and took long naps.
But those moments for prayer disappeared when our daughter, Mari, arrived. She simply loved being with people and didn't want to miss a moment of fun, even as an infant. If I arose at 6:30 to snatch a few precious moments of quiet time, Mari awoke at 6:35. I tried getting up at 5:30; at 5:35 I heard her soft coos, which soon became insistent calls. So much for early morning time with God. Afternoons didn't work either since, of course, my children never napped at the same time.
Somewhere during that first year of being a mother to two, my regular time for prayer disappeared. I stayed active in church and joined a once-a-week prayer group, but my daily devotions turned into a reading marathon on Saturdays to catch up with a week's worth of entries. I was sure that God didn't expect more of me, especially since I still volunteered for things like staffing the church nursery for Vacation Bible School.
Running that nursery was no easy task. I was rather proud of my track record of successfully calming every child I'd cared for in church nurseries throughout the years. Infant, toddler, forlorn preschooler-all you have to do is read to them, stack blocks for them to knock down, or bounce them on your knees.
But Vacation Bible School was different. Since most of the VBS teachers were stay-at-home moms, the children in my charge had one thing in common: They were not used to being away from Mommy! On Monday the sobs that filled the air as mothers left were enough to break your heart, but my high school assistant and I had every eye wiped and hand busy by nine-thirty. Tuesday I came prepared with activities, but little spats broke out all morning long.
On Wednesday, despite my best efforts, half of the toddlers were sitting by the door, asking for their mothers, while the other half crowded around my lap, sobbing. I looked at my watch, the clock on the wall, then my watch again. Not yet ten o'clock. I wondered if I'd finally met my match.
As their fussing increased, I brought out my best weapon of defense: snacks. Today's offering was a large bag of Cheerios. The children rushed to sit at the tables as we placed handfuls of Cheerios on napkins in front of each chair. Their little piles disappeared in record time.
I moved quickly from child to child, replenishing their cereal as fast as I could. In their anxiety over yet another morning at church, had none of them eaten breakfast? I doled out the last of the little o's and sent up a quick prayer. God, this is turning into a terrible morning. Help!
Less than a minute later, in walked Corey, the teenage brother of one of the little girls. "I forgot to tell you about the Cheerios in my sister's diaper bag. Since she's already eating, you can share them with the other kids if you want."
With twelve toddlers screeching for more, I found that diaper bag in record time. Inside were as many Cheerios as I had brought for the whole group! I didn't stop to ponder why any mom would pack so much for just one child; I simply started handing them out. Just as I neared the end of that supply, the children gradually slowed in their eating, then wandered away from the tables, ready to play.
A happy hum filled the room where just minutes before screams had echoed. And in that hum God seemed to say to me, "This morning is like your life: chaos ... unless you take time to feed your soul, unless you take time for Me."
But when? How? I prayed for an answer.
Early the next morning when Mari awoke full of smiles and chatter, I pulled her high chair up next to me at the kitchen table. In front of her I placed a handful of Cheerios. In front of me, I opened my prayer journal. She ate, I wrote. Ten minutes for prayer!
The next day I hunted for a new daily devotional that I wouldn't want to skip and placed it by the television. Twenty minutes of Sesame Street became twenty minutes of reading and prayer.
I tried taking my journal on trips to the playground. Sure enough, the toy cranes in the sandbox kept my children busy enough for me to pray for a quarter of an hour.
For a few years, I lost the stillness of total solitude in my time with God. Yet with the help of Cheerios and a little creativity, I found that God was always waiting for me no matter how I carved out time for prayer.
* * *
Now that Jane's children are teenagers and prone to sleeping late, her favorite place and time for prayer is the family room window seat, first thing in the morning. Still, Jane tries to be creative with her prayer life. She keeps a shelf full of different books and journals to maintain variety in her devotional choices. What doesn't change, however, is a mug full of coffee and moments spent simply gazing in thankfulness at God's creation.
Chapter TwoWill God Speak to Me?
He traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
He replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:8-12
I wanted to let you know that I've never thought you were cowardly. I would have fled to a cave hundreds of miles away, too, if Jezebel's army were at my heels! Why, one day you're standing on Mount Carmel, calling down the flames of heaven and proving that your God is the one true God-and just hours later Queen Jezebel's messenger delivers your death warrant. I'm sure you didn't have time to think, let alone pray, as you wrapped a cloak about your face, grabbed your staff, and headed toward the wilderness.
When you trudged across the desert, did you keep looking for a sign, wondering where God was and if you had failed as a prophet? You must have felt so alone as you prayed that God would simply let you die.
When you heard the gentle whisper, though, you knew it was God. I wish God would speak so clearly to me so I couldn't possibly miss the message.
But the whisper wasn't what you expected, was it? Were you looking for God in the wind, then in the earthquake, then in the fire, just like I would have? Yet it was when you listened that God spoke. Is that the key? To be silent, to listen for the gentle whisper of our Creator?
The next time you pray, try listening. Don't be afraid to ask questions or to speak your mind, as Elijah did. But then listen for what God might be trying to say to you. In these stories, you'll meet others who found out that God speaks to listening hearts.
* * *
A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening.
Opening My Ears
Nancy Jo Sullivan
I had just begun my early morning workout at the health club. With my hair pulled back in a ponytail, I was dressed in elastic-waistband sweats and a T-shirt. After a very merry Christmas, I'd put on the ten pounds I'd vowed not to gain.
I programmed the StairMaster machine with an uphill routine. Then Jill walked into the exercise room. Dressed in a sporty tank top and flowered shorts, she was carrying a bottle of Evian water. I wish I looked like her, I thought, as I watched Jill start pedaling a stationary bike right next to me.
Jill was an acquaintance. Our nine-year-old daughters were in the same class, and I often saw Jill at PTA meetings and school sports events. However, I had made no attempt to get to know her. A former model, Jill was tall and sleek. Her hair was cut into trendy wisps around her face.
The previous evening, I had seen Jill at a school basketball game. She sat across from me on the gym bleachers while we watched our two daughters passing the ball to one another. I eyed her expensive cashmere coat and snakeskin shoes. My outfit, on the other hand, consisted of faded blue jeans and an oversized sweater-"momwear," as my husband calls it. Even though our budget included money for me to buy myself some new clothes, I still felt guilty about spending money on myself. The kids need clothes more than I do, I thought, as I sized up Jill's leather bag and my daughter scored the winning point.
The digital display on my StairMaster began beeping. I had finished the first stage of my step-climb routine. "The girls played a good game last night," Jill said as she shifted her bike into a faster gear. We exchanged small talk about the game, and then Jill started joking about the cost of playing school sports. "I wish garage sales carried basketball jerseys," she said.
"Garage sales?" I asked.
"I buy all my clothes at consignment shops," Jill said before taking a sip from her water bottle.
"You do?" I replied. "But your clothes-they're so nice."
Jill leaned toward me and began whispering as if she were telling me a secret that could not be repeated. "Here's the deal. You can get great clothes if you know where to go."
She told me that her cashmere coat was once owned by a local newscaster. "I bought it for next to nothing." As I huffed my way through my workout, Jill rattled off the names of secondhand shops. "And you can get great jewelry at estate sales," she added.
Over the next few mornings, as the two of us lifted weights, Jill gave me ideas about how to put together a consignment wardrobe. "Find pieces that mix and match. Shop for shoes at outlet stores. Go for a monochromatic look," she advised.
Soon my "momwear" found its way to the back of my closet as I replaced it with trendy pants, skirts, and blouses. Though I wasn't spending much money, I was starting to feel more confident about myself.
"You've helped me so much," I told Jill one morning as I walked into the exercise room, my hair cut into a short bob that flipped up on the sides.
Jill and I were becoming friends-good friends. I looked forward to our daily workouts.
Then one morning, Jill paused for a moment before adjusting her treadmill. Her eyes were filled with sadness. "Today is the anniversary of my little brother's death," she said. The two of us began power walking on side-by-side treadmills while she explained that years earlier her seven-year-old brother had been killed in a tragic accident. "After he died, my faith in God died, too," she said, her voice somber.
I didn't know what to say. Tell her about your faith, an inner voice suggested. Though I was sure that God had spoken, I quickly dismissed the prompting. This is a health club, I reminded God. It's not the right time or place to share such personal things! Still the inner voice persisted. Tell her about Me. I refused to listen. Faith is a private thing, I reasoned to myself.
The next morning, after we had finished exercising, Jill invited me over to her house for coffee.
Excerpted from Did You Get What You Prayed For? by Nancy Jo Sullivan and Jane A. G. Kise Copyright © 2003 by Nancy Jo Sullivan and Jane A. G. Kise
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.